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Thread: Golden Proportions - Baume and Mercier Capeland Chronograph review

  1. #1
    Adjusted in 6 positions tempocalypse's Avatar
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    Dec 2014

    Golden Proportions - Baume and Mercier Capeland Chronograph review

    Proportion, this seems to be the key word that has cropped up again and again while trying to gather my thoughts about this Baume and Mercier Capeland Chronograph 65542 while writing this review. But first, a little background.

    As I mentioned in the SOTC post I did earlier this year, I had been interested in mechanical watches for a little while and actually owned 4 (A Breitling Navitimer, A Tag Aquaracer chrono, this Capeland and a ML Squelette) before I descended into the madness of becoming a truly obsessive WIS. My preferences previously were based on largely superficial concerns and knowledge of relative few watches. Nowadays they are informed by at least a somewhat broader base on knowledge to draw from and my tastes have evolved a bit too.
    The point is that in recent times, my viewpoint on my earliest watches have changed quite a bit:

    The Tag is not as exciting as I once found it and moreover, I now own the Daytona that I originally pined for. I keep it as its my first mechanical watch and occasionally for water activities.

    With the Breitling, the two tone case and white dial now seems wrong to me! I should have selected the classic black Navitimer :/ Anyway I still keep this for sentimental reasons as it was a graduation gift.

    I lost interest in the ML Squelette and was about to sell it when it was appropriated by my mother who has taken a liking to it.

    This leaves only the Capeland and unlike the other three, my appreciation for this has actually increased compared to when I first got it. Although it isn’t seen in the daily WRUW threads that often, I regularly switch to this watch when I get home after a work day though usually I can’t be bothered to take another pic and post it. But I do wear it more regularly than you might think if you participate in those threads here.

    The included paperwork with the watch isn’t that comprehensive and there is not a lot of information available about this discontinued model online either. However some vital stats

    Baume and Mercier - Capeland Chronograph 65542
    ETA 7750 variant (probably 7753 based on sub-dial placement)
    Quick set date at 6 o’clock with recessed pusher
    39mm stainless steel case
    I don’t know what the water resistance is, it does have a screw down crown but theres also a recessed pusher on the side which is usually not great for WR.

    The case

    Now returning once again to the matter of proportion, Baume and Mercier often use the greek letter Phi as a motif (I don’t think its a brand logo though). Phi is often used in mathematics to represent the golden ratio which is an interesting topic in geometry that often appears in nature and has extensively been used by artists and architects. It is also intimately connected to the Fibonacci sequence which again frequently appears in natural and biological series.

    The watch uses a Phi symbol as a 12 o’clock marker and there is a digram of some golden rectangles on the solid case back. All of this could be dismissed as a bit pretentious as looking through the B&M current collection, I see a few watches that are not particularly well designed. However while this particular Capeland may or may not use any design elements informed by the golden ratio (I didn’t spot any myself) it is nevertheless a surprisingly refined and well executed design that balances the proportions of the case, lugs and dial elements beautifully.

    Round the outside is not the world’s longest serial number but the golden ratio correct to so many decimal places; its an irrational number like Pi

    The case itself is subtle but quite interesting. The size is a classic 39mm that is smaller than most modern chronos and in keeping with the vintage inspiration of the watch. The curvy lugs flow beautifully into the case and has an inner bevel that makes for a nice touch, it’s not quite a twisted lug but it adds a bit of interest. The case is finished with a nice polish on all surfaces

    The entire case can only be described as smooth and rounded. The crystal is a hugely curved super dome acrylic and even the case back is rounded rather than flat. The bezel too is curved and flows from the case to the crystal. It kind of reminds me of the Laurent Ferrier Galet (although nowhere not quite as refined a watch costing roughly 50 times as much!). Galet is French for pebble and the LF was so named for the smoothness of the curvy case; the B&M has something of that design philosophy about it as well.

    The lugs have a nice curve from the side view too

    The Dial

    At the centre of the dial is a 3 minute tachymetre scale in 3 separate layers. The layers are quite close together and form a nice tight set of concentric circles rather than dominating the dial. The hour markers are applied baton markers and the 12 o’clock is designated with a phi symbol. The silver baton markers also help keep the dial cleaner than it would be if it used numerals.

    You also have a nicely finished date window at 6 o’clock. The telemeter scale is placed on the sharply angled inner bezel which creates some separation from the rest of the dial. The overall effect is that although you have 2 chrono subdials, a date and two measurement scales, the dial remains quite legible and very clean at least by the standards of multi scale chronographs.

    The chronograph subdials are also quite small which makes them well proportioned with respect to the tachy scale and is reminiscent of vintage chronographs.

    Nice date window

    All of this adds up to a surprisingly well executed design. There is nothing particular that shouts out but all the little details have been taken care of in a subtle and classic manner. If we compare it with its more well known descendent, the Capeland flyback, we can see some interesting differences:

    - The Flyback is a rather large 44mm compared to the 39mm in the 65542
    - The Flyback has that awkward 4.30 date window
    - The intersection of the larger subdials and tachymetre scale is not as harmonious on the flyback. The 65542 is better proportioned and chrono subdials intersect precisely with the middle ring of the tachy scale.
    - The arabic numerals on the flyback are nice but makes the dial busier
    - The telemeter scale is on the dial itself rather than an angled the inner bezel in the flyback, once again making the dial busier
    - The case on the flyback is more typical and lacks the beautiful smoothness; straight bezel vs one that flows into the crystal, flat crystal caseback, box shaped sapphire dome vs curved superdome acrylic etc.
    - The lugs on the flyback are quite typical as well compared to the flowing curvy shape of the 65542 and the additional detailing on the top inside.
    - The chronograph pushers between the two are a matter of taste probably.

    Now I think the Capeland flyback is overall quite a handsome watch (I quite like the blued Breguet hands too and the black dial version with gold hands is even cooler). But I wanted to illustrate just how “perfectly” and unusually refined the the little design details of this older 65542 were executed.

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  2. #2
    Adjusted in 6 positions tempocalypse's Avatar
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    Dec 2014

    As for the movement, it has that most dependable of workhorse movements, the ETA 7750. The chronograph pusher feel is not particularly refined but is among the better 7750s I’ve used. The extra large crown makes setting the time and especially winding the watch quite pleasant. I have always preferred the manual winding action of the 7750s compared to the ETA time only movements or the modular chrono versions of those. Again its not super refined but at least it doesn’t have a “flimsy” feel and you can wind with confidence and some tactile feedback. The date is quickset with a pusher at 10 o’clock.

    Big crown

    The watch came on a brown croc strap. These days I’ve been switching it about on various fabric and leather NATO straps. Since I am often wearing it as a casual watch at home, I like the Nato option for comfort.

    I think I am still looking for some good combos. I quite like the grey leather nato but I think one or two interesting leather straps that can evoke the vintage feel might be nice. I’ve also been thinking about a beads of rice bracelet although perhaps that would be more effective with a black dial… Anyway will update if I pick up anything significant.


    In conclusion I can say that this largely forgotten and mostly obscure (online at least) version of the Capeland turned out to be a hidden gem of sorts. It is a horologically unspectacular watch that has still worked its way into a useful spot in my current collection by virtue of getting the little details just right. I suspect that if a 100% identical watch were released today by a more fashionable brand such as Longines within their heritage collection, this watch would receive quite a lot of accolades from the watch press and community for its design chops and beautiful tribute to vintage chronographs of yesteryear with a modest case size to boot.

    As for me, while the ML has left, and the Tag and Breitling languish, the Capeland soldiers on along alongside Rolex, Breguet, Nomos, GO and the like. I think that it is only by delving as deeply into the rabbit hole of the watch world as I did, I only came to appreciate the details and realise just how good the Capeland I had in hand really was.

    Thanks as always for reading my overly long ramblings

    Watch centric instagram: @tempocalypse

  3. #3
    El bot. geoffbot's Avatar
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    Oct 2014
    West Sussex, UK
    Really well-balanced watch, cracking review and ridiculously good photography.

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  5. #4
    Super Member Raza's Avatar
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    Nov 2014
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    You know, I've always like the Capeland Flyback, but seeing the two side by side does really highlight how the dial is better executed on the smaller model. Really cool watch and very good review. Thanks for posting.

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  7. #5
    Grr! Argh! meijlinder's Avatar
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    Apr 2015
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    Think geoffbot already said what needs to be said. Brilliant as always.

    And agree completely with Raza. This version seems so much less cluttered than the Capeland flyback.

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  9. #6
    Great review - and pics - as usual. Thanks for posting.

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  11. #7
    Nice review of a very nicely executed and interesting watch.

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  13. #8
    Big Member Chase's Avatar
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    Dec 2014
    Wonderfully done. I like that Capeland very much as I think I've mentioned in the past. That grey leather NATO is the perfect companion to it.

    Fine bespoke leather straps & accessories

    Black Friday sale now on... discount code BlackFriday2016 saves you 49% no limit!

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  15. #9
    Very nicely done, tempocalypse. I like that watch a lot, and know I know a lot more about it. Great review!

    Eterna | Tudor | Seiko | Casio | G-Shock | Orient | Swatch | Mondaine | Zodiac (pre-Fossil) | Rolex | Wenger | Pulsar Time Computer | Omega | Timex | Bucherer | Citizen | Bulova | Glycine

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  17. #10
    The Dude Abides Nokie's Avatar
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    Nov 2014
    Northern CA
    Excellent. Looks fantastic on the brown leather strap. Time to get on Google....
    "Either He's Dead, Or My Watch Has Stopped....."
    Groucho Marx

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